Jewish-Americans have had a profound impact on the United States’s founding and development. A number of JMC fellows have written about Judaism’s impact on western, and subsequently American, political philosophy. The Jack Miller Center gathered the following collection of resources on Jewish political thought and Judaism’s role in American political and historical development.
Below is a collection of resources recognizing Judaism’s role in American life, political thought, and historical development. Browse these resources or jump from section to section by clicking the links below:
From George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, 18 August 1790
After being elected president in 1789, George Washington received several letters of congratulation from religious organizations. One such letter came from the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island. Washington’s response to the congregation has become a well-known example of American religious liberty.
To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island
[Newport, R.I., 18 August 1790]
While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people.
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
Selected online resources on Judaism in America:
Jewish Ideas and the American Founding
The Tikvah Fund offers an eight-lecture online course on the Jewish ideas that inspired America’s founding generation, led by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik. The lecture series is one of six online courses offered by the Tikvah Fund, a non-profit organization committed to advancing Jewish excellence and Jewish flourishing in the modern age.
Forgotten Patriot: Haym Salomon
Haym Salomon is an oft-forgotten, yet indispensable patriot. Just as the Yorktown Campaign was heating up, the Polish-born Jew secured the necessary loans that Washington needed to feed and clothe the Continental Army. In addition, Salomon brokered bills of exchange for the American government and extended interest-free personal loans to members of Congress, including James Madison.
A Jewish Founding Father?
JMC fellow Andrew Porwancher argues that Alexander Hamilton was of Jewish parentage. After extensive research into Hamilton’s family and upbringing, Professor Porwancher has found indications that the founder has Jewish roots. Porwancher’s book on the topic, The Jewish Founding Father: Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden Life, is under contract with Harvard University Press.
Jewish Immigration and the American Experience as told by the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress provides many relevant documents on the Jewish-American experience, from a Hebrew prayer book for immigrants to Einstein’s handwritten theory of relativity.
Antisemitism and Assimilation in the 20th Century
The National Humanities Center has several articles on religious groups in America, including one by Jonathan D. Sarna and Jonathan Golden on the Jewish-American experience.
*If you are a JMC fellow who’s published on Jewish political thought or the Jewish-American experience, and would like your work included here, send it to us at email@example.com.